With 20,000 troops protecting the District of Columbia and Congress and all 50 states deploying whatever security they can muster to defend their capitols, those of us waiting eagerly for Trump to leave office and for Joe Biden to become President might be able to breathe at least a bit easier in the expectation that the transfer of power will actually take place, although, tragically, far from peacefully.
However, even with Trump out and Biden in the Oval Office, we can by no means relax. Despite the horrendous attack on Congress and democracy--and five dead--followed by what is being characterized as a bi-partisan impeachment, many members of Congress, other influential Republicans throughout the country and right-wing religious leaders continue to inject the Big Lie that Trump won the 2020 election into the supercharged echo chamber of right wing media, where it continues to resonate and radicalize.
It's hard to know how many of those influencers and opinion makers truly believe The Lie and all the evil collusion it implies, nor how many of the 74,000,000 who voted for Trump are fully committed True Believers. One clue is that after all that's happened somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of Americans still approve of Trump as President. Another is that fewer than 10 percent of Republicans think he should be impeached.
What is crystal clear is that being on the Trump team demands total loyalty, certainly not to facts or reason, nor even to a conservative ideology, but to whatever Trump, the only source of Truth--says. It makes little difference what mix of his supporters are passively going along with the mob, play acting, or acting out his revealed Truth; the real-world results are much the same. As DC Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone said about those rioters who intervened to try to keep him from being shot with his own gun, "Thank you, but f___ you for being there."
Right now the Big Lie still demands believing that the election was stolen through vast fraud, that Trump won by a landslide, and that democrats, progressives, RINOs, Vice President Pence and anyone who is not willing to eagerly follow Trump through every twist and turn of his quest for ultimate victory is evil, devoted to the destruction of the United States, and as such, an enemy of the people. That lie is likely to persist and fester for years. But even if it fades, we can be sure a new one will appear.
It's crazy, right? How could anyone believe such nonsense, not even counting the even more bizarre black hole of Q-Anon, nor whatever twisted beliefs about race, religion and White nationhood drive Trump's most militant and violent followers?
Yet crazy or not, whether we choose to recognize it or not, we are now in a war between our reality and theirs. It's beyond the point where patience, logic, facts, science, reality-based media or prestigious influencers can be counted on to win the day. Shots have been fired and blood spilled. The advance guard of an alternate reality has stalked the Capitol hunting traitors and carrying flex cuffs. The Trump flag has flown over Congress. The first gallows has been erected. We don't need a Churchill or Roosevelt to tell us that war has been declared. A war not just between progressive and conservative policies, between the talking points of left and right, between the "standard hyperbole" of politicians charging up their bases, or between competing narratives, but between a world that makes sense to most of us and a world that makes sense only within the armed perimeter of what has become a 70-million-strong cult.
Within is a world defined by doublethink, where a fair election must be undone to protect the integrity of elections, where Patriotism requires an attack on the nation's Capitol, where tyranny is defined as unity and resistance to mob rule is divisive. Like the most dangerous cults, it promises power, prestige and salvation for the Righteous and death to non-believers and apostates. Be on Team Trump or be damned.
There is a time for patience, empathy and understanding, but not when someone is battering your head in with his flagpole. There are periods during which one can hope that the simple passage of time will soften divisions and heal differences, but not when a crazed mob is crashing through your door. Whether we asked to be or not, chose to be or not, we've all been drafted into a battle not between right and left, nor right and wrong, but between two realities that cannot co-exist. Either Biden won in a fair election or Trump was robbed of the presidency in a treasonous nationwide coup. Either Q is right and the deep-state elite are an international cabal of satanic pedophiles--"baby-killing socialists"--as Pastor Robert Henderson preaches, or not.
Clearly our political, corporate, religious and civic leaders need to make it absolutely clear in speech and action that Biden won and is the legitimate President, and that white nationalism, racism and bigotry are not acceptable. The legal system from the Supreme Court down to police on the street needs to recognize the clear and present danger of domestic terrorism from the right and use all the tools at their disposal to contain and reduce it. The media need to look this threat in the eye and implement ways to limit the ability of hate-driven individuals and groups to organize and radicalize.
Unfortunately, even if all our leaders and institutions step up to their responsibilities, that will not be enough. This battle involves us all. I don't know just where or when you or I will be called to the front, but it will happen. Will it be with a friend, a family member or a stranger trying to get you to drink his or her tainted Kool-Aid? Or with a religious leader, school-board member or local politician arrogantly advancing The Cause? The time to speak up and step up is now, before their reality infects yet more hearts and minds. If not, there will come a tipping point after which you and I will find ourselves living in--or perhaps dying from--their toxic reality.
(Article changed on January 19, 2021 at 14:58)